SOUTH BEND, IN - The City of South Bend and its police department have come to a formalized agreement that officers who damage police vehicles while off-duty could be responsible for paying the accident costs, according to the South Bend Tribune.

The agreement, presented July 22 to the Board of Public Safety, outlines who is liable for damages in an officer-caused traffic accident.

Police spokesman Capt. Phil Trent said the new agreement is actually just a written version of what has already been standard practice since the city adopted a take-home car program in the late 1990s, reported the Tribune.

Essentially, the conditions of the program call for the city to pay all injury and property damage costs that occur while officers are on duty. The city also will cover the cost of off-duty accidents, as long as officers are not in violation of the department's duty manual.

The formalized agreement is not expected to change the costs of the take-home car program. South Bend police officers enrolled in the take-home car program are already pay $10 per paycheck -- or $260 a year -- for insurance to cover the liability of carrying passengers off-duty. Police pay an additional $10 per paycheck to help cover off-duty gasoline costs.

In 2007, according to information compiled by Chief Darryl Boykins, South Bend police officers were involved in 98 accidents - nearly one-third of which happened in squad cars when officers were off duty. However, only nine were considered the officer's fault, and all of those were minor accidents totaling $5,185 in damage. On-duty and off-duty accidents caused by other drivers equaled more than $167,000 in damages, although an unknown portion of that was paid for by the insurance of civilian at-fault drivers, reported the Tribune.

Lack of clarification on who pays for damages done to a city vehicle was recently highlighted in a case against the Louisville Metro Government, which is being sued for unspecified damages in a fatal car crash caused by an off-duty police officer.